Wind Turbines to Have no Effect on WW1 Sub Wrecks (UK)
OF THE nine million people killed in the First World War, few could have died in more unusual or tragic circumstances than those lost in the Battle of May Island.
Two hundred and seventy lives were claimed as two submarines sank and three other vessels were damaged on the night of January 31-February 1, 1918.
But despite its ‘battle’ title, no enemy forces were involved in the disaster which happened 10 miles off the East Lothian coast.
This was the result of a series of accidents which led to 100 Royal Navy men being killed at the time and a further 170 losing their lives later.
Having lain largely undisturbed for nearly 100 years, the exact locations of those two submarines has been revealed for the first time.
Sonar images have been produced by from a survey of the Forth estuary by marine archaeologists EMU Ltd, as part of the groundwork into the proposed Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm. But thanks to legal protection, the wrecks will not be affected by the project.
John Gribble, a marine archaeologist, explained the significance of what has been discovered.
“The location of the two K-class subs has been known for a long time, but what’s happened with this survey is that for the first time we’ve been able to identify which was which and we have a far better handle of the position,” he said.
On the night of January 18, 1918, units of the British Grand Fleet set off from Rosyth, heading for a rendezvous in the North Sea. The formation included 19 major warships and their destroyer escorts.
In poor light and misty conditions, one of two K-Class submarines in the 12th Flotilla moved to avoid two minesweepers, jamming its rudder causing a collision with the other submarine.
Shortly after, a battlecruiser hit one of the already damaged submarines.
With two of the submarines crippled, the flotilla tried to return to assist its beleaguered members – only to steer itself into the path of the 13th Flotilla.
HMS ‘Fearless’, a cruiser, rammed into the returning K-17 submarine, causing it to sink in just eight minutes with most of her crew abandoning ship.
And as the submarines following ‘Fearless’ manoeuvred to avoid their halted flotilla leader, chaos ensued: K-6 struck K-4, which was then also hit by K-7 at high speed, slicing it almost in half. K-4 went down with all crew on board.
The events ended with yet further tragedy. Unaware of the carnage ahead, destroyers of the 5th Battle Squadron ploughed through the survivors of K-17, killing many servicemen battling for their lives in the freezing Forth waters. Only eight of the 59 men from K-17 survived. The survey and sonar images have since revealed the sunken submarines lie barely 100 metres apart.
Ewan Walker, environment developer for Mainstream Renewable Power, said: “Although these wrecks are within our offshore wind farm boundary, they will not be affected if the wind farm is consented.
“The wrecks have legal protection which prevents activities which could disturb them. This protection includes a buffer zone around the wrecks.”
Source: eastlothiancourier, August 11, 2011